Apologies for absence on the blogging front; a visiting sister and other distractions are my partial excuse. I have, however, deadline cleaving as ever, on this the last day of June and final day for submission, managed to make something other than knitting and complete my offering to Clive Hicks-Jenkins' latest Artlog challenge, and made a puppet complying with the theme of myths and legends.
I chose the mythical figure of Melusine, who is something of a favourite of mine. I was determined to make her from old felted jumpers, old t-shirts, scraps of wool and other textile and knitting related materials which were waste or which I had already, and knowing I would leave the making of her quite late and be short of time, and that sewing to any kind of perfectionist standard often discourages and deters me from finishing things, I would deliberately make her in a rough and improvisational manner. In fact on researching the story, I learned that one of the best known versions of it from the Middle Ages was that of Jean d'Arras, and was part of a cycle of stories designed to be told by ladies at their spinning and needlework, which seemed appropriate.
The tale goes that Raymond of Poitou, founder of the House of Lusignan, came across a beautiful woman, Melusine, in the forest one day.
Instantly smitten, he proposed marriage, and she was happy to consent, only exacting the condition that he should never seek to find her on a Saturday. She bore him many fine children and brought him much wealth but of course, in myth as in life, if you make someone promise things like that the one thing they want to do is break the taboo and find out. Raymond had to go looking, and found Melusine at her Saturday ablutions (sometimes simply in the bath at home, sometimes in a forest pool or spring, the kind of place associated with her).
Oh dear, she was all serpentine from the waist down, and, many of the tales say, with a double tail!
Raymond was shocked, as was Melusine.
Then she was furious.
But also deeply saddened. Jean d'Arras has her say the words:
Ah! Raymond, the day when I first saw you was for me a day of sadness! Alas! for my bane I saw your grace, your charm, your beautiful face. For my sadness I desired your beauty, for you have so ignobly betrayed me. Though you have failed in your promise, I had pardoned you from the bottom of my heart for having tried to see me, not even speaking of it to you, for you revealed it to no one. And God would have pardoned it you, for you would have done penance for it in this world. Alas! my beloved now our love is changed to hate, our tenderness to cruelty, our pleasures and joys to tears and weeping, our happiness to great misfortune and hard calamity. Alas, my beloved, had you not betrayed me I were saved from my pains and my torments, I would have lived life's natural course as a normal woman, I would have died in the normal way, with all the sacraments of the Church, I would have been buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Lusignan and commemorative masses would have been observed for me, as they should. But now you have plunged me back into the dark penitence I have known so long, for my fault. And this penitence, I must bear it until Judgement Day, for you have betrayed me. I pray God to pardon you.
And she showed such remorse that there is no heart in the world so hardened it would not have relented.
Though some say she forgave him his curiosity and for seeing her, but couldn't do so when later in a public row he called her a serpent.
She resumed her serpent form and disappeared back into the forest, never to be seen again. But she got to found the royal house of Luxembourg first, anyway.
She appears in many stories and images, too many to link to here, but I'm still enjoying following up lines of research about her, and is perhaps unusual in being an indigenous French myth, of which there aren't too many. She's an admirably feisty woman, certainly.
Many thanks to my lovely sister for puppeteering, and to Tom for tolerating the puppet Melusine in the house, as she totally creeps him out!